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Ateneo grooming Hazelle Yam as next main weapon

Yam is the ideal build-around piece for the Lady Eagles after the season’s end.

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As early as now, with the eventual departure of Ateneo de Manila University skipper Danica Jose at the end of the season, the Lady Eagles are gradually shifting their focus from the center to building their team around Hazelle Yam in the years to come.

“That was the plan when we first brought her. It was a new program and I was a rookie coach; she came in as a rookie and we were looking to build the team around her,” head coach Erika Dy said.

“We were really looking for Hazelle to step up at the beginning of the season. She played well for us in the offseason and her rookie performance last year was above par.”

The sophomore guard Yam did not even start in her first game of the UAAP Season 78 women’s basketball tournament, but has been on a tear lately as she is showcasing the fruits of a busy offseason.

“For a rookie, she did very well so we were expecting her to step up. Although she was not there the first few games, now she is playing pretty well and the whole team is rallying behind her,” Dy quipped of the team’s second leading scorer behind Jose.

Yam displayed her best game of the season yet, scoring 16 points on 8-for-13 shooting to go with 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 steals during Ateneo’s 48-46 win over Far Eastern University.

“I think she was just getting rid of jitters in the past few games. You play a good rookie year and everyone expects a lot from you. I think the pressure sank into her but eventually she let go of that and she is playing pretty well for us now,” Dy quipped of her backcourt general.

Yam is the ideal build-around piece for the Lady Eagles after the season’s end. The former women’s under-16 national team member has good size and agility for a combo guard, and attacks the basket aggressively to set up her teammates.

That shot-making ability will be a huge asset for her in the years to come, and Dy spoke highly of that weapon.

“She has a quick first step and aside from her points, she creates opportunities for her teammates. She draws the defense very well and she can kick that ball out for her open teammates,” Dy shared.

Yam’s performance has been very impactful for the Lady Eagles in their past four outings which they split (2-2). She showed Ateneo can get production outside of their usual go-to players and at this rate, Yam should be bracing for an even bigger role in the future.

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